Air is two musicians (Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin) who are typically French yet altogether worldly. Many of France’s best musicians have something of this, simultaneously from yet not of France.
Air and their latest album, Love 2, has grand tales of Armageddon and, more importantly, love. You can read what you like into Air’s lyrics them (and darn it there’s no more fun than doing so) but the truth is the voices are as much about textures and sounds as they are meaning. Just listen to Love on their album Love 2, in which the single word lyric (“love”, natch) is used primarily as a brass stab and keyboard motif as much as it is an actual word. As the Tom Tom Club once sang, “Words are stupid, words are fun, words can put you on the run”; or as Nicolas quips, “We can’t do complicated sentences because otherwise we make mistakes all the time.”
So what’s new in the world of Air? Well, the big news this album is they’ve dispensed with producers and, moreover, built their own studio - it’s almost entirely constructed out of analogue keyboards, as if you couldn’t tell. The results are stunning. It’s the most homogenous album they’ve made since the criminally underloved 10,000khz. Ever the conceptualists, Air wax lyrical about their new lair. “So many different aspects of the studio can suggest different things to you, the doors, the walls, the windows, the street, the architecture.”
They’ve spent most of the past year locked in their newly furbished studio with drummer Joey Waronker, the first time they’ve written an album in such a ‘jam’ style, something that’s evident on rockers like Be a Bee or Do The Joy, in stark contrast to Pocket Symphony’s minimalist meditations on which drums were barely evident
Where Love 2 is at its most strident is in the vocal tracks. This time they’ve eschewed guests and stuck to JB’s beguiling reflections and his simple but effective lyricism dealing as it perennially does with the wonderment of woman. “We always see women in a romantic and idealised way”, laughs JB.
In Heaven’s Light they have produced the nearest thing to a sure-fire hit (it screams Radio 2 playlist) for years, driven by a snare-heavy attack, its chiming keyboards take you dangerously near to the sun. Unlike poor Icarus, however, we pull away just in time to save the song and, indeed, love itself. “We wanted to get the feeling of climbing higher and higher into the light but with this sort of melancholy,” asserts JB. Who would disagree?
If this is the racket that Air make unbounded by outside influences, secreted away in their exclusive Parisian studio lair, then we can’t wait to hear further dispatches from Air central.